Infant Babies Swimming Underwater
Founded in 1993, Mammalian Diving Reflex is a research-art atelier dedicated to investigating the social sphere, always on the lookout for contradictions to whip into aesthetically scintillating experiences. We are a culture production workshop that creates site and social-specific performance events, theatre-based productions, gallery-based participatory installations, video products, art objects and theoretical texts. Mammalian’s body of work is interconnected, varied and vibrant, reflecting our unique and growing body of knowledge and expertise on the use and function of culture. We create work that recognizes the social responsibility of art, fostering a dialogue between audience members, between the audience and the material, and between the performers and the audience. In all it’s forms, the company’s work dismantles barriers between individuals of all ages, cultural, economic and social backgrounds; we collaborate with non-artists, and offer both participatory opportunities for the audience as well as the traditional option of simply watching the proceedings as they unfold. It is our mission to bring people together in new and unusual ways, in Toronto, Canada, our home-base, and around the world, to create work that is engaging, challenging, and gets people talking, thinking and feeling.
Mammalian Diving Reflex was founded in 1993, and between 1993-2003 primarily produced the stage-based performances of Artistic Director, Darren O’Donnell. In 2003, the company began to diversify its approach and generate work in a multitude of forms, focusing on creating “social acupuncture”: playful, provocative, site and social-specific participatory performances with non-actors of all ages and demographics, designed to bring people together in new and unusual ways. In 2006, Darren published his book, Social Acupuncture, which established a theoretical foundation for this new direction and solidified it as the company’s primary creative methodology. Propelled by the company’s subsequent touring hit, Haircuts by Children – a performance about trust, children’s rights, generosity and vanity, where ten-year-olds offer free haircuts to the public – Mammalian began to work with a wide array of new collaborators, including international art festivals, art galleries, city administrations, seniors homes, community centres, schools and other socially-related institutions of civil society.
Our core team consists of Artistic and Managing Producers, Eva Verity and Jenna Winter; Young Mammals Director and Programmer, Annie Wong and Alexandra Hong; and Artistic and Research Director, Darren O’Donnell. This team has been assembling itself since 2008, when Eva joined us as an intern, while still in school. The first thing we did was take her out for a game of pick-up basketball and fracture her arm. Jenna, in the same York University cohort as Eva, joined us as a researcher in 2009 and decided to stick around. With this small crew, we rolled up our sleeves, pulled out the whiteboard and did some serious strategic planning, building our first fully-engaged, working Board of Directors, establishing the Torontonians youth collective and quickly pulling in the resources to formalized the Young Mammals, hiring Annie and Alexandra, who both joined us in 2012, with Alexandra bringing her crew of collaborators, The Madeleine Collective, our go-to team for local project realization, production management and presentation.
We are an efficiently tight team, with a wide variety of expertise: urban planning, writing, directing, art history, education, photography, videography, filmmaking, industrial design, acting, playwrighting and qualitative and quantitative research. We love our work, do it very well and bring good vibes wherever we go.
Mammalian Diving Reflex’s work has been presented around the world in more than fifty cities, including: Austin, Bern, Birmingham, Bochum, Bologna, Brisbane, Brussels, Calgary, Chicago, Cork, Darwin, Derry, Dublin, Duisberg, Edmonton, Enschede, Gelsenkirchen, Gladbeck, Glasgow, Greensboro, Hamilton, Inverness, Kitchener-Waterloo, Kelowna, Kuopio, Lahore, Leeds, London, Los Angeles, Manchester, Melbourne, Milan, Montreal, Mumbai, Newcastle Upon Tyne, New York, Norwich, Nyon, Oldenburg, Oslo, Ottawa, Perth, Portland, Prague, Regina, Skagaströnd, Singapore, Sydney, Tasmania, Terni, Trondheim, Vancouver, Victoria.
Mammalian Diving Reflex has received numerous awards and support for its engaging collaborations with the community, children and youth. Most recently, the company was the recipient of the inaugural Neighbourhood Arts Network TD Arts Diversity Award, and the Toronto Community Foundation’s Vital Toronto Award. In 2012, Mammalian (and particularly The Mammalian Protocol for Collaborating with Children) was awarded the Children’s Rights Supporter Award from the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children, nominations for which were reviewed by a jury of young people. In 2010, Mammalian won Harbourfront Centre’s Fresh Ground New Works Award to premiere Monster Makers, the company’s first performance created for child audiences. After being shortlisted for three consecutive years, in 2009 Mammalian won the Toronto Arts Foundation’s Arts for Youth Award. In 2007 and 2008, Mammalian was the recipient of the Growing Active Kids award from the Toronto Community Foundation. Mammalian also received an award from the Toronto Community Foundation’s Simon Family Fund in 2008. Prior to Mammalian’s ‘social acupuncture’ work, Artistic Director, Darren O’Donnell won the Pauline McGibbon Award for directing (2000). He has been nominated for a number of Dora Awards for his writing, directing, and acting, winning (with Naomi Campbell) for their design of White Mice. His play [boxhead], which continues to tour, was nominated for a Chalmers Award, and O’Donnell received a Gabriel Award for excellence in broadcasting for his CBC radio piece Like a Fox. Mammalian has presented their collaborative work with adults, children and youth in more than 45 cities nationally and internationally with great success, and the company is regularly recognized at home and abroad by participants, peers, colleagues, institutions, fans and the press for their innovative, engaging and entertaining performances.